MARSHALL COUNTY, Ala. – With a box of files, photos, and binders, Marshall County Sheriff’s Office Chief Investigator Keith Wilson took News 19 back to Eagle Rock Drive on April 15, 1997 where a mutilated body was discovered by a young boy skipping school.
Now, authorities hope a new image may lead to a positive identification.
Investigators say the hands, head and heart were cut of and out of the victim. They called the body “moderately decomposed,” and they believe the male victim was either stabbed or shot, then dumped in the location near the Marshall/Morgan County line.
“Someone went to great lengths to hide the identity of our victim and the cause of his death,” Wilson said.
Investigators also noted that there was no one reported missing in the area around the time the body was found.
The Marshall County Sheriff’s Office partnered with a company named Parabon that uses the victim’s DNA to predict the person’s appearance. The company’s website says scientists use the DNA to identify someone’s physical characteristics which leads to an approximate image of the person.
“They can tell you the shape, the size of our victim’s face, his hair color, his eye color and his skin color. The drawback to it is, they can’t predict aging, scars, hairstyle or facial hair,” explained Chief Investigator Keith Wilson.
The DNA report says the man was likely light skinned with blue eyes. He likely had dark blond or light brown hair and likely had some freckles.
Investigators believe the man was stabbed or shot to death, then dumped in the creekbed.
“There’s no houses within sight of where it was found,” said Wilson.
Figuring out who the victim is has been a weight on Wilson’s shoulders since he started at the sheriff’s office 21 years ago.
“We have his DNA and it’s been ran through CODIS since 1997 and it’s been updated as DNA progresses and it has been continuously been run through CODIS, but we’ve never got a hit. We suspect our victim is somebody that’s missing but never been reported missing,” he added.
It cost the sheriff’s office just under $12,000 to complete the DNA phenotyping and genealogy for the unidentified victim.
“All the leads that we have talked about or people we have interviewed, we don’t know the exact facts, so we don’t know who’s telling the truth or what really happened, but if we can ID the victim, that’s the key, I think, to solving this case or at least getting on down the road where we can solve it,” said Sheriff Phil Sims.
Parabond is also using resources to find genealogical matches to the victim.
Wilson says there have been some distant relative connections in south Alabama, Virginia, and Texas.
Anyone who thinks they may have known a man who resembled the developed image in the mid-90s should call the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office. The tip line for this case is 256-571-7851. Or you can call the main line at 256-582-2034.